Innovating to Bridge the Distance Divide in Northern Canada
CEO, Ice Wireless
Partners/Channel, Service Providers, Core Networks, Mobility
Staying connected is something that many in the Western world often take for granted. In the remote regions of Canada’s North however, it’s a very different story. Many residents and businesses in Northern Canada still only have access to a fraction of the services that are available in Southern Canada (and at nearly double the cost). The lack of coverage in these regions affects everyone and everything from local businesses, to healthcare, to education.
Understandably, providing high-speed cellular connectivity in the harsh regions of the Artic is a difficult endeavour. Backhaul costs tend to be very expensive and deployment cycles can drag on as work is often limited to the few weeks of the year when temperatures are warmer. Recognizing this, an innovative approach was needed to be able to bridge the digital divide.
Ice Wireless, one of Canada’s fastest growing telecommunications companies offering cellular and data services to Canada’s North including the Yukon, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories, partnered with Cisco and Parallel Wireless to bring high-speed cellular connectivity to the Arctic to better serve all Canadian residents. Working in tandem, the teams collaborated to provide an end-to-end virtualized solution from RAN to the core that met all the requirements of installing in such a challenging environment.
Executed in the middle of the Arctic winter with temperatures ranging from between −48 and −51°C (−55 to −60°F), Ski-Doos had to be used to transport much of the equipment to the sites. With all of the hardware being COTS-based (commercially available off the shelf), the site equipment and associated site footprint requirement was quite small.
Having a compact, easy to install solution that was able to be deployed fast before the worker’s gloves froze to the equipment was crucial in making the installation a success.
End to End Resilient Virtualized Solution
Cisco’s industry leading vEPC (virtualized evolved packet core) paired with Parallel Wireless’ vRAN (virtualized radio access network) software-enabled solution, allowed for architectural simplicity, programmability, elasticity, and automation – all of which is built ready to scale far into the future. With each location deployed independently, it added an additional level of resilience as the users will still have connectivity if the satellite link happens to goes down.
Going forward, Ice Wireless, will fully utilize the Software-Defined Radio (SDR) capability of the RAN (radio access network) technology to incorporate both 3G, 4G/LTE, and 5G (in the future) into a single integrated solution that delivers the smallest site footprint with the lowest power consumption.
As a result of the successful collaboration between Cisco and Parallel Wireless, Ice Wireless is now able to offer its customers consistent, reliable, and affordable cellular connectivity to Canadians across the Artic region. Following Minister Navdeep Bains’ recent request of the CRTC to review an earlier decision preventing users of smaller wireless companies from roaming permanently on the networks of Canada’s three leading service providers, this certainly is a step in the right direction towards finding alternatives for Canadians in remote regions.
To read Ice Wireless’ full announcement from earlier this year, click here.